Northern Ireland Annual Tourism Statistics published today

Date published: 25 May 2017

The Statistics & Research Agency today published 2016 annual tourism statistics for Northern Ireland. These statistics provide an overall assessment of tourism activity last year. The key findings are:

  • In 2016 there were an estimated 4.6 million overnight trips in Northern Ireland. This figure includes trips to Northern Ireland of external visitors and domestic trips taken by local residents. Estimated expenditure associated with these trips was £851million.
  • Within this, last year estimated overnight trips to Northern Ireland by external visitors stood at 2.6 million. This is the highest number on record and a 12% increase on 2015
  • Estimated spend associated with overnight trips to Northern Ireland by external visitors was £614million in 2016.
  • In 2016 there were an estimated 2.0 million overnight trips taken in Northern Ireland by Northern Ireland residents. Estimated spend associated with these trips was £237 million. Whilst not statistically significant, the statistics point to a fall in the domestic tourism trips in 2016. This is likely to have been influenced by the increased availability of outgoing flights from Northern Ireland.
  • Last year there were an estimated 15 million visits to local visitor attractions. The most popular visitor attractions in Northern Ireland in 2016 were the Giant’s Causeway (0.944 million visits) and Titanic Belfast (0.677 million visits).
  • Hotel room occupancy stood at an estimated 70% during 2016. In total an estimated 2.0 million hotel room nights were sold in 2016; and
  • last year, 93 cruise ships docked at Northern Ireland ports. This is 26 more than in 2015. These cruise ships had up to 152,000 passengers/crew on board.

Notes to editors: 

  1. Headline tourist activity on overnight trips is measured against the International Recommendations for Tourism Statistics (IRTS, 2008) definition. This defines tourism by the activity of visitors.

    “A visitor is someone who is making a visit to a main destination outside his/her usual environment for less than a year for any main purpose including holidays, leisure and recreation, business, health, education or other purposes, as well as visiting friends and relatives.”

    UN Definition (IRTS2008)

    This definition is wider than the traditional perception of tourists, which only relates to those travelling for leisure purposes.

  2. This report relates to all overnight visitors including external visitors from Great Britain, the Republic of Ireland, those living outside the UK and Ireland – as well as domestic tourists within NI. The headline tourism statistics are based on samples of households and at ports/airports. Visitor numbers are measured by
    the Northern Ireland Passenger Survey (Northern Ireland port survey) & the Republic of Ireland Survey of Overseas Travellers (Republic of Ireland port survey);
    the Household Travel Survey of Republic of Ireland residents; and
    the Northern Ireland Continuous Household Survey of Northern Ireland residents.
  3. The survey based statistics will have an associated degree of sampling error. A confidence interval is used to inform users of the reliability of the estimates. The headline trip measure has a confidence interval of +/-7%. More detailed information on data sources and methodology can be found on the DfE Tourism Statistics website
  4. For media enquiries, please contact Department for Economy Press Office on 028 9052 9604. Outside office hours, please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07623 974383 and your call will be returned.
  5. General statistical information can be obtained from NISRA on Tel: 028 9052 9585 or email.

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